So you might have heard of or seen the series, but have you read the book? Orange is the new Black is a fascinating read that follows Piper Kerman’s lengthy money laundering and drug trafficking convictions and court cases as well as her year long stretch in a women’s prison. Kerman tells the story of her experience, documenting with great depth the good and the bad moments during the court cases and her prison sentence. A lot of the book focuses on individuality, and Kerman explores how difficult it is not to lose your sense of self in a situation where you are completely powerless and have no real autonomy. Some scenes are shocking – shocking in how mundane they become in prison, for example strip searches or being sent to the SHU. However there are of course moments of happiness; Kerman makes friends in the prison and there are moments of solidarity and harmony in the prison.
In the book Kerman questions the prison system in the US, and provides some appalling statistics on prisoners and their convictions. She focuses on those with her conviction, a nonviolent drug related crime, and discusses laws such as the three strike law and their effect on prisoners, and in particular female prisoners. The book is fun and intriguing but at the same time tells a terrible story of corrupt bureaucracy, ineffective legal systems and the complete powerlessness of prisoners.
P.S. If you have seen and enjoyed the series, you might find the book a little hard to get into as all the characters names are different and the series is a bit more dramatic!